Pak. J. Bot., 43(4): 1861-1866, 2011.
STRUCTURAL DIVERSITY, VEGETATION DYNAMICS AND ANTHROPOGENIC
IMPACT ON LESSER HIMALAYAN SUBTROPICAL FORESTS
OF BAGH DISTRICT, KASHMIR
HAMAYUN SHAHEEN1, RIZWANA ALEEM QURESHI1 AND ZABTA KHAN SHINWARI2*
1Department of Plant Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan
2Department of Biotechnology, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan
Patterns of species composition and diversity in the lesser Himalayan subtropical forests of Kashmir were studied in
relation to environmental variables and underlying anthropogenic influence. Simpson’s diversity ranged from 0.85 to 1.96;
Menhinick’s diversity, 1.49 to 1.37; evenness, 0.23 to 0.61; average species richness per site, 36 to 40 and maturity index, 41
to 44. Deterrended correspondence analyses (DCA) revealed the altitude as the most influential factor controlling species
distribution pattern. Diversity values were similar to the other Himalayan forests, whereas density, basal area and seedling
count were very low. 89.6% of the human population was dependent on forest resources for fuel and energy requirements.
Annual fuel wood consumption was 6.7 metric tons, 2.2 kg capita-1day-1. High deforestation and disturbed regeneration
patterns were indicated by a stem/stump ratio of 1.9; a tree density of 344ha-1; tree basal area of 69.3m²ha-1 and only 212
seedlings ha-1. A sharp decline in forest vegetation attributes occurred with increased levels of human and livestock
Forest composition, community structure and
diversity patterns are important ecological attributes
significantly correlated with prevailing environmental as
well as anthropogenic variables (Gairola et al., 2008;
Timilsina et al., 2007; Ahmad et al., 2010). The lesser
Himalayan region, with a 900-1800m altitudinal range, is
colonized by subtropical broadleaved forests, mainly
dominated by Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) and Oak
(Quercus) species (Kharakwal & Rawat, 2010). The forest
diversity patterns and governing environmental as well as
anthropogenic variables in the Himalayan subtropical
region have been studied in the past by Phytosociologists
(Todoria et al., 2010; Kharakwal et al., 2009; Gairola,
2008; Ahmed et al., 2006; Kunwar & Sharma, 2004).
Himalayan forests are considered to be among the globe’s
most depleted forests (Duke, 1994; Schickhoff, 1995;
Shaheen et al., 2011); this has been attributed to the high
population increase, associated with land use changes,
socio-economic transformations and unsustainable
exploitation of natural forest resources (Nayar & Sastry,
1990; Ghosh, 1994; 1981; Myers, 1986).
Three quarters of the western Himalayan forest cover
have been lost in last century (Joshi et al., 2001). Eight
percent loss in the Eastern and 23% in the western
Himalayas has been occurred in last three decades (FSI,
2005), or 17% (2364 x 103ha) for the two halves between
1975 and 2000 (Conservation International, 2005). In
Pakistan overall only 4.8% of land remains covered with
forest, with an annual deforestation rate of more than 3%
(FAO, 2005; Cronin & Pandya, 2009). Pakistan lost
24.7% of its forest cover in just 15 years, from 1990 to
2005 (Abbasi, 2006). Oza, 2003 has discussed the
destruction of forests in Kashmir valley. A 27% (821 x
10³ ha) loss of forest cover was recorded in Jammu &
Kashmir by using satellite imagery from 1970 to 2000
(Valdiya, 2002). The impacts of timber harvesting on
forest biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have been
subject to research (Putz et al., 2001; Meijard et al., 2005;
Asner et al., 2006). The variations in community
attributes are directly correlated with the intensity of
variables like geographical location, productivity,
evolutionary competition and human-forest interaction
(Eriksson, 1996; Criddle et al., 2003; Ahmad et al., 2011).
In the present study we have analyzed forest harvest
and wood extraction scenarios under varying intensities of
anthropogenic pressure as well as environmental
variables. The changes in diversity and composition of
forest stands under these conditions have also been
assessed. Our aim was to develop a better understanding
of long term forest harvest impacts leading to a
sustainable use of local forests reserves in Himalayas.
Materials and Methods
Bagh district lies between 73° - 75° East and 33° - 36°
North having sub tropical to moist temperate vegetation,
with 54.58% area under forest cover. It is located in the
Pirpanjal sub range of the western Himalayan foothills. The
total area of the district is 1368Sq.Km, which is about 10%
of total land area of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (Anon.,
1998). Population of Bagh is about 0.434 million, with an
annual growth rate of 2% (Anon., 2007). Some 94% of the
population lives in rural areas. The elevation is between
1000 and 2200 m.a.s.l. Average annual temperature is
21°C, ranging from 2°C in January to 40°C in July. The
annual precipitation is about 1500 mm (Anon., 2005,
The study was carried out during June 2008 to March
2009 starting with a preliminary survey in the 9 village
communities to collect data about their socio-economic
indicators and dependency on forest resources. The data
about family size, land holding, herd size and available
grazing area was obtained through the field survey
questionnaire method (Ogunkunle & Oladele, 2004). A
total of 180 questionnaires (20 /site) were administrated in
the study area. The quantity of fuelwood consumption was
measured over a period of 24 hrs using a weight survey
method (Mitchell, 1979; Bhatt et al., 1994). Each sampled
household was visited randomly round the year to record
the firewood consumption. Initially, a wood lot was
weighed and left in the kitchen and the household was
requested to burn wood only from this bundle. After 24 hrs,
the actual fuelwood consumption was measured. From this
HAMAYUN SHAHEEN ET AL.,
value, fuelwood consumption in kilogram/capita/day was
calculated for each site.
Expeditions to the three subtropical forest sites were
conducted during spring and summer 2008-9 using
extensive and detailed surveys in accordance with specific
locality procedures (Cox, 1967; Ford, 1978). Quadrat
method was used for sampling vegetation. Quadrat sizes
of 30 x 30 m (900m2) were used for trees; 5 x 5 m (25m2)
for shrubs; and 1 x 1 m (1m2) for herbs and grasses.
Sampling was started at each site from the beginning of
forest, at an average distance of 100 m from the edge.
Then onwards, quadrats were laid at every 250 m
distance, until the vegetation climax was reached. Co-
ordinates recorded were altitude, longitude and latitude of
each site using a Garmin 2000 global positioning system
(GPS). Seedling and stump count per ha were calculated
synchronized with the laid quadrats after every 250 m
Simpson’s (1949), Menhinick’s (1964) and Shannon-
Weiner’s (1948) indices of diversity were calculated.
Simpson’s diversity index gives the probability that two
individuals selected at random will belong to the same
species. It was calculated as:
where D = Diversity index; n = Number of individual of a
species; N = Number of individual of all the species.
Shannon’s index is a measure of the amount of
information needed to describe every member of the
community, where pi is the proportion of individuals
(from the sample total) of species i, and diversity (H') is:
Species evenness was calculated using the Shannon
evenness index: E = H’/ln S; where H’ is the Shannon–
Wiener diversity index and S is species number. The
Shannon evenness index ranges from zero (when one
species is dominant) to one (when all species are equally
abundant). Menhinick’s (1964) index was calculated as:
where d d= Species richness; S = Total no of species in
a community; N = Total no of individuals of all the
species in a community. The maturity index was recorded
after Pichi-Sermollis method (1948) as:
The index of similarity was calculated after Sorenson
(1948) by using importance values. The lowest values in
two communities were considered for comparison.
where C = Total I.V values for all the number of species
common in two communities; A = Total importance value
in community A; B = Total importance value in
community B; ISs = Sorenson index. The CANOCO
version 4.5 was used to carry out Detrrended
correspondence analyses (DCA) of studied forest
vegetation (ter Braak & Smilauer, 2002).
A total of 72 species belonging to 31 families were
recorded from the area. These communities were
dominated by Pinus roxburghii (18.53%), Quercus ilex
(6.57%0 and Quercus dilatata (6.41%) respectively. Co
dominant tree species included Pinus wallichiana
(5.11%), Olea cuspidata (2.34%) and Punica granatum
(2.21%). Pinus wallichiana was found in upper limits of
only one subtropical site (Saiyagalla) in 45000-5500 feet
a.s.l. altitudinal range. Shrub layer was dominated by
Dodonea viscosa (4.22%), Sarcococca saligna (4.04%)
and Berberis lycium (1.15%). The ground stratum in
subtropical communities comprised mainly of Arthraxon
prionodes (2.29%), Micromeria biflora (1.56%), Dactylis
glomerata (1.51%) and Ajuga bracteosa (1.43%).
Average land holding in the area was found to be
2.54 acres per family. Herd size was 3 with an average
available grazing area of 0.55 acres unit-1. An average
amount of 6.7 metric tons of fuelwood was measured to
be consumed per house hold annually. Average per capita
fuelwood consumption was calculated to be 2.2 kg-1
(Table 3). 89.6% population of village communities was
found dependent on forest wood for their fuel and energy
requirements. Out of 180 surveyed households in lower
Bagh zone, 103 (57.3%) were found completely
dependent on forest wood; 19 (10.5%) used Liquid
Propane gas where as remaining 58 (32.3%) used both the
forest wood and LPG gas as fuel source for cooking and
heating. Recorded tree density for the Subtropical zone in
Bagh was 344 ha-1, tree basal area of 69.31 m² ha-1;
average stem/stump ratio of 1.62 and an average seedling
count of 211ha-1 (Tables 2, 3). Nampra showed the
maximum seedling count of 311 ha-1whereas Saiyagalla
had the lowest of 123ha-1. Shannon-Wiener’s diversity
value for the subtropical forests was 1.3 with a minimum
of 0.83 at Nampra and maximum of 1.77 at Maira sites.
Simpson’s diversity value in subtropical zones was 0.91.
The study sites showed very low species richness values
in a range of 0.9-1.8. The average species richness at the
sites ranged from 36-40 (Table 4). The Maira and Nampra
sites were the low altitudinal (1000-1500 m) sites in the
study area dominated by Pinus wallichiana, Quercus
dilate and Olea cuspidata, showing significantly similar
(59.6%) to each other. However they showed a striking
dissimilarity of 12.32% and 2.9% with the Saiyagalla site,
located at relatively higher (1400-1800 m) range
dominated by Quercus ilex and Pinus wallichiana.
DCA analyses generated three clearly differentiated
species clusters. Altitude appears to be the main limiting
factor determining the species distribution at studied sites.
The lower Nampra & Maira site’s (1000-1500 m),
vegetation is grouped at the left most of ordination axis
(Fig. 1). This group is dominated by typical subtropical
species like Pinus roxburghii, Q. dilatata, Olea cuspidata
and Dodonea viscosa. The higher Saiyagalla site’s (1400-
1800 m) species are grouped at the right most. This zone
behaves like an ecotone between subtropical and moist
STRUCTURAL DIVERSITY AND ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACT ON FORESTS OF BAGH DISTRICT 1863
temperate zones indicated by the presence of some moist
temperate members like P. wallichiana, Q. Ilex, Viburnum
grandiflorum and Poa alpina. The central cluster is
composed herbaceous flora having broad ecological
amplitude, common in upper and lower subtropical limits.
Altitudinal based temperature and moisture gradient is the
most probable reason for this sub grouping of subtropical
vegetation. This clustering is also supported by
Sorenson’s similarity tests showing high (60%) similarity
of lower, Nampra & Maira, sites among themselves
whereas strong (85-88%) dissimilarity with upper
Present study revealed alarmingly high level of
fuelwood consumption in the western Himalayan
communities of Bagh. Area showed an annual fuelwood
consumption of 6.7 metric tons per household. In terms of
kg capita-1 day-1, fuelwood consumption was 2.19 in lower
Bagh (Table 3). Results of similar investigations in other
Himalayan regions show that consumption level in study
area is considerably higher than those like 1.5 kg capita-1
day-1 in rural and tribal communities of the western
Himalayas (Bhatt et al., 1994); 1.9–2.1 kg capita-1 day-1 in
Southern India (Hedge, 1984); 1.6–2.4 kg capita-1 day-1 in
South-East Asia (Donovan, 1981) and 1.24 kg capita-1
day-1 in trans-Himalayan Nepali communities (Mahat et
al., 1987). In present study stem/stump ratio was used to
estimate the degree of tree felling and logging. Immense,
unchecked and horrible deforestation phenomenon is
represented by a terribly small stem/stump ratio of 1.9
(Table 1). A strong correlation was observed between tree
felling intensity and population density, fuelwood
consumption level as well as ease of access in the area
(Shinwari, 2003). The forest sites surrounded by larger
villages and having easy road access represented lower
stem/stump values. The lowest values were observed in
initial 1000 meters forest margins while maximum
tree/stump ratios were recorded at the forest centre, fairly
away from the settlements. The very initial forest margins
within 1st 500 meters showed relatively higher values than
the latter 500 meters. It is due to the fact that people
usually try to mask and hide tree felling from the
authorities which often pay visits for the forest inspection,
but usually restricted to the margins. So the people mostly
exploit the latter 500 meter zone with some camouflage
provided by initial forest margin (Butt, 2006).
Table 1. Stem/stump ratio & seedling count along the distance gradient at studied sites.
Distance from disturbance stimuli (Meters) → → →
Site name↓ 100 350 600 850 1100 1350 1600 1850 2100 2350 Av/900m² Av/ha
Number of seedlings/quadrate↓ ↓ ↓
Maira 29 21 23 17 12 29 33 29 41 45 28 313
Nampra 41 32 17 23 12 12 3 7 12 14 18 201
Saiyagalla 0 2 13 11 22 9 16 11 13 9 11 124
Av(900m²) 23 18 17 17 15 16 17 15 22 22 19 212
Av/ha 256 199 190 188 167 177 191 165 243 238 212 212
Distance from settlements (Meters) → →
Site name↓ 100 350 600 850 1100 1350 1600 1850 2100 2350 Av/900m² Av/ha
Stem/stump ratios ↓ ↓
Maira 0.79 1.24 0.69 0.44 2.13 3 1.52 1.59 2.04 2.45 1.6 1.6
Nampra 1.81 1.83 1.06 1.41 1.62 1.59 2.29 1.34 4 2.24 1.9 1.9
Saiyagalla 0.86 0.64 0.47 0.57 0.67 0.87 2.64 3.1 5.15 6.6 2.2 2.2
Average 1.15 1.23 0.74 0.81 1.47 1.82 2.15 2.01 3.73 3.76 1.9 1.9
Table 2. Comparison of tree density values in study area with different Himalayan regions.
Forest type Density ha-1 Geographic region Source
Quercus dilatata-P. roxburghii 344 Kashmir, Western Himalayas Present study
Q. semecarpifolia -P. roxburghii 530-940 Kumaun, Central Himalayas Kharkwal et al., 2009.
Q. leucotrichophora 790-1059 Gharwal, Himalayas Todoria et al., 2010.
Q. lanuginosa- P. roxburghii 341-462 Nepal, Trans Himalayas Subedi & Shkya, 1988.
Q. leucotrichophora 1158 Himachel, western Himalayas Sharma et al., 2008.
Table 3. Village wise fuelwood consumption, land holding, herd size and grazing area.
Village name Elevation
size Metric tons
family (acres) Herd size Av grazing
Kafalgarh 151 ± 60 10 ± 3 8.4 ± 1.5 2.25 ± 0.9 06 ± 20 4 ± 2 0.88
Channala 1395 ± 90 8 ± 2 7.8 ± 1.0 2.6 ± 0.9 1.8 ± 0.5 3 ± 1 0.26
Kaila 1450 ± 11 10 ± 4 6.22 ± 0.8 1.63 ± 0.4 2.2 ± 0.3 3 ± 2 0.34
Gahlan 1345 ± 40 8 ± 3 6.6 ± 1.2 2.15 ± 0.9 1.2 ± 0.5 4 ± 2 0.12
Bhagloor 1180 ± 50 8 ± 2 7.16 ± 0.9 2.5 ± 0.6 3.9 ± 0.9 3 ± 1 0.84
Sahlian 1175 ± 70 7 ± 1 6.7 ± 0.7 2.8 ± 0.9 2.05 ± 0.3 2 ± 1 0.54
Nindhrai 1205 ± 90 8 ± 1 2.2 ± 0.3 0.7 ± 0.05 1.23 ± 0.4 1 0.58
Nampra 1020 ± 11 7 ± 3 8.03 ± 2.3 3.3 ± 0.6 2.4 ± 10 2 ± 1 0.52
Patrata 1100 ± 10 9 ± 2 6.8 ± 1.8 2.02 ± 0.2 2.2 ± 0.7 1 0.8
MEAN 1270 8 6.7 2.2 2.6 3 0.55
HAMAYUN SHAHEEN ET AL.,
Table 4. Quantitative phytosociological attributes of subtropical forest communities.
Forest type Site name “N” “D” “H’” “J” “M” “S”
Q. ilex-P. Wallichiana Saiyagalla 40 0.92 1.96 0.61 42.82 1.37
Q. dilatata-P. roxburghii Maira 37 0.91 1.77 0.49 44.45 1.22
P. roxburghii-Dodonea viscosa Nampra 36 0.93 0.83 0.23 40.71 1.49
(N: Species number, D: Simpson’s diversity, H: Shannon’s diversity, J: Evenness, M: Maturity index, S: Richness)
Fig. 1. DCA diagram of species distribution pattern in subtropical forest stands of Bagh Himalayas.
Recorded tree density was 344 ha-1in the subtropical
forests showing deteriorated forest structure (Table 2). This
value is far less than the subtropical forest investigations in
other Himalayan regions like 534-620 ha-1 in lesser
Himalayas (Ahmed et al., 2006); 1158 in Himachel Pradeh,
western Himalayas (Sharma et al., 2008, Sundriyal et al.,
1994); 530-940 ha-1 in Kumaun Himalayas (Kharkwal et al.,
2009, Hussain et al., 2008); 790-1059 ha-1 in Gharwal
Himalayas (Kusumlata & Bisth, 1991; Todoria et al., 2010)
and 341-462 ha-1 in Nepal broadleaved forests (Subedi &
Shakya, 1988). The recorded diversity values of 0.83 to 1.96
lie more or less within the reported range of 0.91 to 3 for
Himalayan range (Pande, 2001; Mishra et al., 2003; Sharma
et al., 2009). A slow rate of evolution and community
stabilization along with relatively drier climatic conditions
can also be responsible for the low diversity values of
subtropical forest as compared to highly diverse tropical and
temperate vegetation (Conell & Oris, 1964). Recorded
species richness in the range of 36-40 is in accordance with
the results of several related phytosociological investigations
in Himalayas (Behra et al., 2005; Kharakwal et al., 2009).
Identified vegetation communities in the study area
showed maturity index scores less than 50 indicating the
unbalance and immaturity and heterogeneity within
communities due to a lesser adaptation to the ecological
conditions of area. The high intensity of anthropogenic
disturbances regularly disturbs the natural balance of
forest and alpine vegetation communities, thus preventing
them to reach a climax stage of community maturity
(Saxena & Singh, 1984). This phenomenon is evident
from the heavy grazing and tree felling in studies sites.
The non timber forest products including medicinal Plants
etc are also over collected and being utilized by various
industries (Shinwari, 2010) though they are source of cure
to many diseases and have high quality micronutrients
(Hussain et al., 2009).
Average herd size recorded in the area was 3 with an
average grazing area of 0.41acres/cattle, about 20 times
lesser than the ecologically permissible limit of 8.51
acres/grazing unit/year for Himalayan region (Singh et al.,
1984). Consequently the grazing pressure shifts to the
surrounding forest reserves creating a massive stress on
forest ground flora, shrubs and most important, the
seedlings (Negi, 2009). This was evident from the
observed heavy grazing activity at the sites. The forests
showed regeneration rate of 212 seedlings ha-1. Highest
STRUCTURAL DIVERSITY AND ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACT ON FORESTS OF BAGH DISTRICT 1865
seedling concentrations (230-250 ha-1) were recorded in
the lower and upper forest margins as compared to centre
(Table 1). The high seedling density in very initial forest
margins is possibly due to some of departmental
plantation schemes. Higher seedling count in upper forest
margins away from settlements b is because of lesser
intensity of human and live stock disturbances (Dalling et
Preferred fuel wood tree species including Quercus
ilex, Quercus dilatata, Pinus wallichiana and Pinus
roxburghii are under immense pressure. On one hand due
to fuel wood and timber demands, very heavy extraction
is going on in the local forest reserves. While on the other
hand due to limited grazing area available for the
livestock, over and illegal grazing of demarcated forest
areas is threatening the growing seedlings of these tree
species (Oza, 1980, 2003; Alam & Ali, 2010). Himalayan
people have to think seriously to protect their vital,
overexploited and rapidly dying forest resources (Oza,
1985; Kharakwal et al., 2009). Forests reserves are the
only fuel wood and timber source for poor mountain
people. There is an urgent need to develop a conservation
management policy for the sustainable use of local forest
lands which should include improving the socio-economic
status of locals; providing them alternative fuel/timber
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(Received for publication 17 March 2010)